Steve Palazzolo, known by some as @PFF_Steve, is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus and host of the PFF NFL Podcast. Prior to his time at PFF, one could find Steve standing 60 feet from home plate as a towering 6-foot-10, 260-pound baseball pitcher who pitched from 2004 to 2011 across various minor league and independent baseball teams.
We caught up with Steve for this week’s Friday Five…
1) Who is your biggest mentor?
I’d have to say Neil Hornsby, PFF’s founder. He took a chance to quit his job and get PFF off the ground and I was new to any kind of real job after playing minor league baseball for eight years. Neil did a good job of helping me along where I was weak, but also putting me in position to succeed in places where I was an asset to the company. He has plenty of real-life experiences in the business world and he’s always used his experience to help others along the way.
2) Across your career as a right-handed reliever, what was your best pitch and why?
I was mostly a fastball/splitter pitcher, so it was really just a well-located fastball that brought the most success. Once that’s established, it makes all off-speed pitches much better. My fastball had some natural sink and run to it, so it was effective against both lefties and righties – as long as it was down in the zone. Of course, it was at its best when it was coming in at 90-94 rather than the 70-74 mph I’m bringing to the table today.
3) What is one misconception about football analytics that you’d like to see corrected?
Many people think that analytics people think the “analytics” are going to be successful 100% of the time when it’s more of an edge from a process standpoint. Most of the pushback is when decisions don’t succeed, which is well within the realm of possibilities. But the point is to increase win probability as much as possible with every decision. That could be a couple percentage points here and there and many of them will fail, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right decision at the time.
4) What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
I’d give some of the usual advice like working hard and putting everything into something if you really want it, but I’d also suggest that you be bold and reach out to smart people who can help. Find people who can help you reach your goals, but do so in a way that is beneficial to them as well. Basically, create and cultivate relationships and you never know which doors will open because of it.
5) If you could invite any three people in history to dinner, who would they be and why?
Jesus, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick. I’d choose Jesus because I’d want to get the answers to some of life’s greatest questions from the savior of the world — that feels like a good start. So we’d chat for a while. I’d want to get Brady and Belichick in a room from a football discussion standpoint just to get the full story on the most successful duo in football history. Learn the ins and outs of how the dynasty was built and how it was sustained for 20 years.